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Keeping the ship ship-shape safety-wise

Attention to food safety is important in any kitchen, but especially so on cruise ships, where quarters are tight, the clientele is captive, and publicity of past outbreaks on other liners might have passengers on edge.

To guard against food safety breaches, Queen Mary 2, the world’s largest ocean liner, strives to keep its eight kitchens immaculate, says executive chef Jean-Michel Zimmermann. Two sanitation officers report to him. They oversee a staff of 85 dishwashers, pot washers and galley cleaners, who work around the clock to maintain a sanitary environment.

Cunard Lines, the ship's parent, "maintains an extensive food safety and preparation training program in order to ensure proper handling of food by all staff members," a company spokesman said.

The sanitation program was developed in coordination with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which monitors cruise ships and inspects them twice yearly, unannounced, under its voluntary Vessel Sanitation Program. In the most recent inspection in December, the Queen Mary 2 received a score of 99 out of a possible 100.

To cut down on contamination risk at the several on-board buffets, patrons are asked to squirt their hands with sanitizer before they start piling food on their plates. A staffer stands at attention to dispense the squirts.

Time and temperature of the food on board is monitored constantly. For buffets, food is set out for a maximum of four hours. "Anything that is out of temperature for four hours we destroy," said Zimmermann.

Careful pre-planning, however, minimizes the amount of waste, he said. To dispose of the waste, first the food is blast frozen. Then it is chopped up and released into the ocean. "The fish are lucky wherever we go," Zimmermann said.

-Louise Kramer

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